Thursday, May 8, 2014

TV Review: The Best of 2014 So Far

NBC's "Hannibal"
Some TV is so, so very good these days, especially for genre fans. And while I'm sad to see my beloved "Warehouse 13" come to a close (I was sadder about "Fringe," to be honest), I am happy to report that the envelope continues to be pushed by both brave network programmers and smart basic-cable presidents. The success of the most popular cable program of all time (do I need to spell it out?) on AMC seems to have inspired the competition.

NBC airs both it's best genre shows on Friday, traditionally a dumping ground for shows on the bubble. Still, "Grimm" and "Hannibal" are both fascinating and well-produced, which has made them "Must See TV," while holding their own in the ratings. The humor in "Grimm" makes it fun, while the exceptional art direction; bizarre, hallucinogenic dreams and the amazing cast of "Hannibal" make it so hypnotic. 

The picture above was found by a Facebook friend; a graphic artist who primarily creates Sci-Fi & Fantasy art for any number of clients. It is a picture of a meal Lecter made in season one. Click on it to make it bigger and really look at it. Do you see it? Top center of the plate, among the garnishes. Yes, that's a bird's skull. And don't the cheese and fruit slices look like a body with feathery greens for wings and pea pod legs? Oh, to be a food stylist on that crew! Now I have to go back and just look at pictures of the food. As they say, the devil's in the details. With just a few more episodes left of each show this season, I'm glad so many summer shows are coming back. Not to mention this Sunday's premiere of "Penny Dreadful."

This week also saw the season finale of A&E's "Bates Motel," and what a finale it was! SPOILERS AHEAD Now that the prolonged pot-wars plot of the modern reboot seems to have finally (albeit quite conveniently) played out, it looks like we can finally focus on Norman and his particular psychosis... Vera Farmiga continues to give television's best performance (sorry Jessica) and the amazing young Freddy Highmore matches her note-for-note. The final shot of the finale literally sent chills down my spine as we finally met the Norman Bates we've all come to know and love. 

Truth be told, the best show on TV right now is also the best new show, FX's astonishing "Fargo." I know I've already reviewed it, but four episodes in and it just gets better and better. Showrunner and writer Noah Hawley ("Bones") says that the Coen Brothers are hands-off, but you can tell everyone involved is all about making a show the Coens would make. Set in the same universe as the 1996 film, until this week's episode, it was only marginally connected. SPOILERS AHEAD The episode started with a flashback to young Stavros Milos moving his family to Minnesota out of desperation. After running out gas in the middle of nowhere and being nearly run over by an 18-wheeler, Stavros prays to God for help and promises to serve Him all his life. When he looks up, he sees a red snow scraper in snow along the fence in front of him. He begins to dig and finds... the money buried by Carl (Steve Buscemi) in the movie. As in the film, the cast of "Fargo" is incredible. Billy Bob Thornton is both terrifying and hilarious while Martin Freeman ("Sherlock;" The Hobbit) is astonishing as the poor schmuck who becomes a most unlikely villain. Alison Tolman ("Sordid Lives") gives a star-making turn as a frustrated young deputy thwarted by an incompetent chief (Bob Odenkirk) at every step. Colin Hanks; Kate Walsh; Adam Goldberg and Oliver Platt all lend stellar performances in this quirky, creepy, violent and exceptionally funny show.

Next up: The Worst TV of 2014 So Far.

More, anon.

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